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LaBruzzo Pulls the Trigger

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  The House Health and Welfare Committee last week approved HB 587, sponsored by Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, which would make it a crime to perform an abortion or provide abortifacient drugs (such as the "morning-after pill") in Louisiana. An earlier draft of the legislation could have led to women being prosecuted under the crime of feticide. That provision was deleted by the time LaBruzzo's bill came up for a vote, but HB 587 would still make no exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

  LaBruzzo's proposed legislation is known as a "trigger" law, because it has no binding effect as long as the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade remains settled law. Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe, the LaBruzzo bill would immediately criminalize abortion providers.

  Largely overlooked in the fuss over LaBruzzo's bill is that Louisiana already has more than one trigger law on the books. The most recent was signed into law in June 2006 by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. If Roe were overturned right now, even without LaBruzzo's bill, abortion providers in Louisiana would face up to 10 years in prison. The law Blanco signed provides an exception if the mother's life is in danger but, like LaBruzzo's, makes no exception or provision for rape or incest victims.

  A study this month by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute found that 22 percent of American pregnancies end in elective abortion. In 2006, the Institute says, Louisiana's public costs from births resulting from unintended pregnancies totaled $406 million — and 80 percent of unintended pregnancies resulting in births were publicly funded. NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) currently gives Louisiana an "F" on the group's scorecard for abortion access and legislation.

  In 2009, Americans United for Life (AUL), a anti-abortion lobbying group, ranked Louisiana No. 2 in the nation on its scorecard. Since then, Louisiana has passed laws requiring women to get an ultrasound before any abortion and banning medical malpractice coverage for doctors who perform abortions. With those new restrictions in place, Louisiana moved to No. 1 on AUL's 2011 list. The group praises Louisiana for adopting "some of the most comprehensive and protective regulations regarding the health and safety of women seeking abortions and the protection of the unborn." — Kevin Allman


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